Taylor inaugurated as seventh president

Keith Taylor, Ph.D, took his oath of office Friday in a ceremony in the Hammermill Center that included orchestra and vocal music, commands and commendation from various speakers and his own words of thanks and promise to those he will serve as the seventh president of Gannon University.

The event opened with a prelude played by the Gannon University Erie Chamber Orchestra under the director of Art Martone. Also, during the inauguration, the Gannon University Festival Choir and Mixed Chorus sang two numbers under the direction of the Rev. Shawn Clerkin and Roberta Stoughton.

The Most Rev. Donald W. Trautman, bishop of Erie, presided over the ceremony. He introduced people from both the Gannon and Erie communities who spoke about Taylor and his new role.

Erie Mayor Joe Sinnott, who graduated from Gannon in 1988 with a degree in chemistry spoke of Taylor’s instrumental role in developing and implementing the Erie-G.A.I.N.S. program, which stands for Erie-Gannon Alliances to Improve Neighborhood Sustainability.

During his speech, Sinnott also spoke of Taylor’s involvement in another community program, the GO College initiative, which stands for Gaining Options for College Collaborative.

Through this program, Gannon students mentored Strong Vincent high school students.

Of the 46 students they worked with, 43 went to college and one went into the armed forces.

“I believe he will do monumental things to shape Gannon’s future both from the perspective of education and the community,” Sinnott said.

Dr. Parris Baker, an assistant professor and program director of the social work, mortuary science and gerontology programs, spoke about Taylor on behalf of the faculty.

During his address, Baker said that Taylor was inheriting a faculty dedicated to their discipline and students.

However, he also spoke of some concerns the faculty have, and he urged Taylor to address these concerns.

“President Taylor, lead Gannon beyond the traditions of university politics and return us to the original intent of the university spirit,” he said.

“Establish true and honest dialogue such that words like transparency, integrity and cooperation no longer need to be decoded.”

Abby Taylor, a sophomore physician assistant major, spoke about her father on behalf of the students and her family.

She spoke about her father’s tireless devotion to causes he feels important, his humility and his personable nature.

She spoke of an Alternative Service Break Trip to Honduras.

She said the project leader always wanted to know if her father would be back the next day, because he worked so hard in spite of the heat.

Abby Taylor talked about how close she is to her dad.

“I can and do confide in him when I’m faced with my life’s daily struggles,” she said.

“He is my biggest fan and also my biggest competition.”

Melissa Russo, a senior occupational therapy major, said she attended the ceremony with her Sigma Sigma Sigma sisters, in part to support Abby Taylor, who recently joined the sorority.

She called Abby a very friendly person who always has everyone’s best interest at heart, and she thinks she gets this partly from her father.

“Even if he doesn’t know your name he will walk right up to you and start a conversation,” she said.

Trautman offered the traditional charge to the president.

He spoke of Taylor’s humility, saying that he could count on Taylor to remain humble even after experiencing all the “pomp and circumstance” of the inaugural events.

He also offered a challenge to Taylor to stick to the Catholic identity of Gannon, in spite of the challenges he said are present in the modern world.

“Today, Catholic universities and colleges are engaged in a struggle to communicate transcendent values and goals to students who are culturally conditioned by secular values and goals,” he said.

“Gannon must be more than an institution of higher learning with a religious façade.

“Catholic identity must permeate this university.

“You, Keith, must be the articulate spokesperson and a defender of the Catholic intellectual tradition.”

Trautman then presented Taylor with a medallion, which symbolized his inauguration as the president.

Taylor then addressed the audience with thanks and his mission in the areas of tradition, service, strengthening and community.

He began his remarks by joking that people often ask how a physical therapist becomes a university president.

“My typical answer is, ‘I don’t know, but it is pretty cool, isn’t it?’” he said.

Taylor was reminded of the importance of the Catholic tradition of Gannon when Bill Edmondson took him for a walk to Cathedral Preparatory School.

Edmonson took him to a part of the school he never knew existed – the crypt where the body of Gannon’s founder, John Mark Gannon, rests.

“It was in the silence of that place that I came to a more full understanding of the measure of this man and the magnitude of the responsibility I would soon have – to support this university’s Catholic tradition,” he said.

Taylor spoke of his dedication to service, especially his commitment to the Erie-G.A.I.N.S. programs and the Alternative Break Service Trips.

He said his good experiences with energetic students on past service trips to the Bronx and Honduras solidified his commitment to service.

He will carry this dedication with him in his role as president.

“I will call upon the Gannon family to continue the dialogue and to build alliances for the good of our regional and global communities,” he said.

“We have a shared interest and obligation to serve the significant needs of our struggling neighbors.

James Erdman, a senior philosophy major, said he appreciated Taylor’s commitment to service, but he said he thinks it’s important that students serve for the right reasons.

“We have to make sure that hospitality is something that comes from the heart and is not just an obligation,” he said.

“Students aren’t just forced to go through the motions.

“We are personally engaged and committed and knowledgeable about why we are doing the things.”

Taylor plans to strengthen the university partly by focusing on service, but also through globalization.

“We must invest our time, talent and resources into this transformation to remain competitive and relevant in this rapidly changing environment.”

Taylor said Gannon must continue to be an active member of the local community, even as it becomes more globalized.

He plans to make sure the university remains strong partners with elected officials and community leaders in efforts to create a healthy, sustainable Erie area.

Steve Ropski, a professor in the biology department, said he enjoyed Taylor’s address.

He said he appreciated Taylor’s humor and his thanks and stories about his family.

“A lot of time people don’t realize how much families are a part of getting you where you want to go and keeping you sane once you are there,” he said.

He believes Taylor will be a good leader because he has a winning combination of energy and calmness.

He said he never seems to lose his drive, but he also doesn’t let his excitement cloud his judgment.

“He doesn’t get too ticked off when things don’t go well or too overly excited when things go right,” he said.

Students who attended the inauguration felt that it was a positive reflection of Taylor.

Chris Devos, a junior sport and exercise science major, said he has only met Taylor a few times, but has always found him very personable.

Devos, who attended the ceremony with his fraternity, Pi Kappa Alpha, said he thought there could have been a stronger student presence, although he enjoyed seeing alumni.

Erdman said he thought the student presence was good, and he appreciated that Gannon’s Catholic identity was reflected in the inauguration through the speeches and the Mass held as part of the ceremonies that morning.

He said he believes Taylor seems like a down-to-earth family man who seems dedicated to the university.

Abby Taylor believed her dad wanted the weekend to be about serving others, and she thought this was conveyed at the inauguration.

“My dad is very humble,” she said.

“For him it’s not about being No. 1.”

“He wants Gannon to be a safe, fun environment for people to get a taste of the world, get to see a lot of things, get to study abroad and get to do service with the community.”


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